Tuesday, November 09, 2010

UK Copyright law to be reviewed

The UK Government has announced plans to review UK copyright law - see Independent review launched to ensure IP system promotes growth

While this looks as if it's all about business innovation and technology, inevitably any change in law will affect artists who might licence their artwork or wish to protect it from being copied.

In Blueprint for Technology (pdf file), published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, it states
We are launching an independent review of the intellectual  property framework, including considering whether there are benefits in US-style ‘fair use’ copyright provisions in terms of  encouraging and enabling more creative applications of  intellectual property. This review will also set out  recommendations to make it cheaper and easier for companies, particularly start-ups, to protect and enforce intellectual property. The review will report in April 2011.
The associated press release announces
The six-month review aims to identify barriers to growth within the IP framework, which consists of the rules and regulations covering how IP is created, used and protected in this country.  It will particularly focus on how the IP system can be improved to help the new business models arising from the digital age.

The review will look at:
  • Barriers to new internet-based business models, including the costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders;
  • The cost and complexity of enforcing intellectual property rights within the UK and internationally;
  • The interaction between IP and Competition frameworks;
  • The cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing services to help them protect and exploit their IP.
The review will also look at what the UK can learn from the US's "fair use" rules covering the circumstances in which copyright material may be used without the rights-holder's express permission.
Comments from the lawyers are beginning to suggest that the government has maybe missed the point - which is that much of UK copyright and intellectual property law is driven and dictated by EU law.

He may also have not realised that there was very considerable opposition to any relaxation of copyright restrictions by various creative professionals when the topic was the subject of intense debate in the wash-up debate at the end of the last government.  Professional photographers secured the elimination of Clause 43 from the Digital Economy Bill (see The farce of the Digital Economy Bill).

It's worth noting that the Digital Economy Act has still to be formally enacted.

On the whole I'm in favour of
  • anything which protects the interest of the individual creative artist (as opposed to the derivative artist).
  • legislation which fosters new business models for a digital economy - but not change which favours the income streams of global companies at the expense of the independent artist.
So what if Google would not have come here because of our intellectual property laws?  This is the very same firm which recently collected personal data about accounts and passwords from very many wifi computers as its Streetview cars passed by - and maybe that included your house.  It strikes me that very large firms have to date shown amost complete and utter disdain for the proper protection of our digital data and IP rights of "small fry" like you and me.  They do what they like because they can - and will continue to do so until somebody stops them.

To date the website of the Intellectual Property Office has not one jot to say about the review beyond the press release.  Isn't it normal to have a proper review page - with terms of reference and the names of those involves and how you can comment sorted BEFORE you announce a review.  Why is the review highlighted on the BIS website and not the IP website?

I suggest those who are concerned about the rights to their intellectual property (ie your artwork) should keep an eye out for any news about this Review.  It may well be something you wish to comment on.

Other sources of comments to date are:
Jim Killick of the Open Rights Group (Open Rights Group Blog) interprets the proposed intent of the review in relation to fair use as follows
Roughly speaking, this which allow people do what they like with copyright works, so long as this doesn’t doesn’t stop the copyright owner from making sales. This is open ended. So scanning a book you have bought, indexing content, or changing a CD to an MP3 at home, can be “fair use”.
Might this offer the potential for an explosion in derivative artwork - and how will the right of the copyright holder to income from sales be protected?  I wonder....

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